Pastor Invited to Perform Benediction at Obama Inauguration Withdraws from Ceremony After Anti-Gay Remarks Surface

The controversial pastor who was selected to deliver the benediction at President Barack Obama's second inauguration ceremony announced this morning that he has withdrawn his participation over concerns that his appearance would present a distraction.

"Due to a message of mine that has surfaced from 15-20 years ago, it is likely that my participation, and the prayer I would offer, will be dwarfed by those seeking to make their agenda a focal point of the inauguration," Rev. Louis Giglio of Passion City Church said in a statement.

The Presidential Inaugural Committee has been heavily criticized by gay rights advocates for their choice of Giglio since ThinkProgress uncovered a sermon delivered by the Georgia-based pastor in the mid-90s that "preached rabidly anti-LGBT views," including support for "ex-gay" therapy and a strong denouncement of the "homosexual lifestyle."

A spokesperson for the inaugural committee released this statement following Giglio's withdrawal:

We were not aware of Pastor Giglio's past comments at the time of his selection and they don't reflect our desire to celebrate the strength and diversity of our country at this Inaugural. Pastor Giglio was asked to deliver the benediction in large part for his leadership in combating human trafficking around the world. As we now work to select someone to deliver the benediction, we will ensure their beliefs reflect this administration's vision of inclusion and acceptance for all Americans.

American Family Association rep Bryan Fischer called Giglio's announcement a "huge victory for fascistic intolerance."

However, others were quick to point out that the AFA's own president, Tim Wildmon, called on Giglio to decline the White House's invitation because "an implicit endorsement of President Obama "could hurt his credibility "within the Christian community."

[screengrab via YouTube]